Status update (Sept 15th 2015)
New TRAI Chief is open to VoIP licensing. DoT waiting for TRAI process to end. TRAI open houses sessions haven't even been announced. Parliamentary Standing Committee process is still on. Google and FB support Zero Rating.
Need more Internet Industry support. FB spending lots of money promoting Internet.org. Zuckerberg is going to host a town hall with PM Narendra Modi, and we should participate in the townhall and push for Net Neutrality. Journos are being taken on an all expenses trip to SF by Facebook. We need to help them with questions and ask for them to take both points of view on board in their reports.
TRAI process: The TRAI still hasn't announced its open house sessions, but RS Sharma has been appointed Chief. He's made some worrying statements:
On VoIP services, DoT favours removing regulatory arbitrage between similar and competing services. It can't be anybody's case that one technology or service triumphs, not because of competitive advantage but due to a regulatory regime. The impact of any regulation, if we propose any, on over-the-top services will be considered in all its facets.
Service providers have tools to distinguish between such calls. One such is called Deep Packet Inspection.
We're not sure of how they're going to conduct the open house sessions. From what we've heard from sources, the TRAI believes that only 66k submissions were relevant, not 1 million.
We're not sure of how things will play out from here on, but the DoT will wait for the TRAI process to begin.
Parliamentary Standing Committee: The Committee has, from what we know, so far met Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, DoT, TRAI, Civil Society including many of us from Save The Internet, apart from DEF, SFLC and CIS), Facebook, Microsoft, Cleartrip, Flipkart, and Academia (Prof Vishal Misra from Columbia and Prof Manjunath from IIT Bombay). There might be more rounds of meetings, but so far, we don't know. From what I understand from sources, among the Internet companies, Facebook shared some new data, but they deposed alone. Cleartrip, Flipkart and Microsoft supported Net Neutrality, which is good. Google was invited to attend but backed out at the last minute.
In Parliament: Nothing noteworthy wrt Net Neutrality since, though questions about Privacy and Airtel inserting code have been raised by MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar . In case there's something I've missed, please let me know. MP Tathagata Satpathy spoke about a host of issues including net neutrality in the Lok Sabha.
Internet Industry: Facebook and Google tried to play funny at the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), trying to force them to change their stand. Google, in particular, was surprising, but now we know that they want Zero Rating. STAR also wants Zero Rating, which the company has now clarified to me. From what I understand, the IAMAI will now oppose Zero Rating given that their governing council has allowed them to take the majority view. It's almost as if it's only Facebook, Google and Star versus the rest of the Internet companies, and there is a clear division: none of the major Indian Internet companies support Zero Rating, but will be forced to adopt it if it becomes a competitive scenario.
Facebook's tactics: This is getting worrying now. Facebook not only ran a misleading campaign on its own website, it also has been running TV ads, ads in cinema halls and in newspapers. Apart from this, and I've confirmed this from a few journalists who got invites, they're taking journalists on an all expenses paid trip to San Francisco to meet Facebook's leadership team on the 24th, and Mark Zuckerberg on the 27th. The PM Narendra Modi is also going to San Francisco, and will be hosting a townhall with Zuckerberg on Sunday, September 27 at 10PM IST/9:30am PST. This is quite discouraging, and we can only hope that the PM won't decide in favor of Internet.org.
What can we do?
- TRAI Process: Wait
- DoT Process: Wait
- Standing Committee Process: Wait
- Internet Industry: Try and ask startups and Indian Internet companies to be more vocal in favor of Net Neutrality. None of the Industry associations have been vocal, whether NASSCOM, IAMAI or Ispirt. Not sure of what to do here.
- Inform journalists that they need to disclose that FB is paying for their trip in their articles, and that we're going to judge their piece on whether it is taking a one sided view.
- Provide them with questions that they can ask Facebook's management team and Zuckerberg when they meet them.
- Take part in the Townhall and ask questions on Net Neutrality
Any other suggestions? Leave a comment below.